What is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan is an action plan designed to help develop leaders within your organization. It takes the form of a written document, but there are also other formats available.

Creating effective leadership development plans requires planning, time, and effort. However, with the right strategy and support, you can create a culture of empowerment where everyone feels valued and supported.

Leadership is integral to every organization, and universities make it essential to their curriculum. While there is helpful content about developing leadership skills, there is little about leadership skills that support career vision. It leads to a lack of understanding of leadership, developing ineffective leadership development training programs, and poor communication between management teams.

To learn more via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead to continue reading.

This article lists seven steps to creating leadership development plans and further information on creating a personal leadership development plan.

What is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan can take one of two forms:

  1. A formal leadership development plan
  2. A non-formal leadership development plan

People create a formal LDP during the recruitment process. You may ask candidates to complete a questionnaire before they start working for you. This questionnaire aims to find out what type of leader they would like to become. Once you have hired someone, you can then go through the questionnaire results together and discuss the areas where you want your employee to improve.

A non-formal LPD is more informal than a formal LDP. Many companies prefer to work on developing their own LDP rather than using a pre-made template.

The main difference between a formal and non-formal L PP is that a formal LDP has a clear goal and objective. You will likely have already decided what your company wants to achieve, and you will have defined some key performance indicators that you wish to measure.

However, with a non-formal LPO, you don’t necessarily know what you’re trying to achieve. Instead, you will probably be looking at improving morale or increasing productivity.

When creating a non-formal LP, it’s often helpful to draw up a list of potential objectives and then select the most relevant ones for your business.

When writing your leadership development programs, you ensure that you include the following elements:

  • Vision statement
  • Objectives
  • Goals
  • Key performance indicators
  • Professional development
  • Training needs analysis
  • Action plans
  • Measurable milestones
  • Deadlines
  • Measurement methods
  • Feedback mechanisms
  • Appropriate resources

You could even consider including additional sections, such as

  • HR policies and procedures
  • Strategic planning
  • Leadership styles
  • Performance management systems
  • Communication styles
  • Team building
  • Motivation techniques
  • Change management
  • Reward and recognition programs

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Why should you Create a Leadership Development Plan?

Creating a strong LDP helps you develop better leaders by imparting leadership qualities and ensuring that you give them the opportunities to grow. It means that you need to ensure that you provide the tools they need to succeed.

For example, if you want to train people in new skills, you need to ensure enough time and money. If you want to improve teamwork, you’ll need to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with each other.

And if you want to encourage innovation, you’ll need to set aside some time for brainstorming sessions.

In addition, a sound thought LDP ensures that you keep track of progress throughout the year. This way, you can see how well your leadership skills training efforts are going and whether you need to change anything about your approach.

leadership development goals

Let’s go through seven steps.

1. Understand your Organization’s Culture

Before you start thinking about your leadership development plan, you need to understand your organization’s current culture. To do this, you must first define your organizational culture.

Culture is one of the most important aspects of any business. It defines the way people work together, communicate, behave, and interact. An excellent example of an organization’s culture would be a family-owned restaurant. The owners may have different ideas about running the business, but if they all agree to respect each other and treat customers well, it will reflect everything they do.

Culture is also one of the hardest things to change. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up and maintain. It’s therefore essential that you know what your organization’s culture is before you start working on your leadership development program.

2. Define What you Want People to Achieve

Once you have defined your organization’s cultural values, you should think about what you want your employees to achieve. Do you want them to become more productive? More innovative? More creative? Or maybe you want them to feel appreciated for their hard work. Whatever you choose, make sure that it aligns with your organization’s goals.

3. Identify Employees’ Strengths

The next step is to identify your employees’ strengths. There are many ways to do this, including using personality tests such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator or DISC. These tests help you get a better idea of which type of leader your employees are and whether they are suited to specific roles within the company.

Benefits of a leadership development planYou can identify your employee’s strengths through:

• Observing their behavior and interactions

• Talking to them directly

• Using surveys

4. Ensure that Everyone is On-board

When you’re trying to implement a new leadership development program, it helps if everyone is on board with it. If some staff members don’t like the changes, it could cause problems later.

To ensure that everyone is happy with the changes, you need to talk to them individually. Get feedback from them by asking questions such as ‘What do you think about our plans? How does this affect you personally?’

5. Set Goals & Objectives for Each Employee

After talking to your employees, you should set goals and objectives for them. These should include both short-term goals and long-term goals.

To set employee goals and objectives, ensure to follow the following steps:

• Define what success looks like for each individual

• Set realistic deadlines for achieving these goals

• Make sure that the goals are measurable

6. Choose an Appropriate Training Method

Now that you’ve identified your employees’ strengths, you’ll need to decide on the best training method and how to nurture leadership skills. It depends on the kind of skills that they need to develop.

If they need to learn specific technical skills, it might be easier to train them yourself. However, if they need to improve their communication skills, hiring a coach who can teach them how to use body language effectively might make sense.

Whatever you choose, make sure it fits into your overall plan.

7. Track Progress

It’s essential to keep track of progress to see where you stand at the end of the day. As part of your leadership development plan, you should create a spreadsheet that includes the following information:

  • A column for each employee
  • Columns for different types of training
  • Columns to record results after training
  • Columns in which you will note down any achievements

This way, you can quickly see how well your employees are doing and meeting their goals.

How to Write a Good Personal Leadership Development Plan?

A personal leadership development plan is a roadmap that creates a clear overview of your leadership development goals.

Leadership development goalsWriting effective personal leadership development plans isn’t difficult, but it does require a lot of effort. You can choose to follow the personal leadership development plan template or come up with a new one. Here are seven steps that you should follow when creating a compelling personal LDP:

1. Define Goals

Before you begin writing your leadership development plan, you need to decide what you hope to achieve. For example, you might want to increase sales, reduce costs, or boost staff morale. Whatever your goal is, you’ll need to define it clearly.

2. Decide who Leads

It’s essential to understand which employees need to participate in your LDP. You may find that different groups within your organization need different types of support.

3. Identify Problems

Once you’ve identified the areas you’d like to improve, you’ll need to consider why these issues exist. Is there something specific that’s causing the problem? Or is it more general?

4. Choose Objectives

Once you’ve identified the problems, you’ll need to choose your objectives. These should be measurable and realistic. For example, you could aim to increase productivity by 20%.

5. Set Deadlines

If you want to get things done quickly, you’ll need to establish clear deadlines. Otherwise, you risk spending too much time on one project without seeing any results.

6. Write an Action Plan

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll need to work out how you will implement a successful leadership development plan. For example, you may need to give team members more responsibility, offer more training courses, or introduce new technology.

7. Review the Plan

Finally, once you’ve written your Leadership development goals, you’ll need to review them periodically. It will help you ensure that everything is working correctly and that you’re making the most of all the opportunities available.


Becoming a strong leader is essential for professional development. It’s never too late to develop yourself as a leader as long as you have the will.

The best first step is figuring out where you are right now. Do you have enough professional experience? How are your soft skills? Although it’s preferable to have knowledge and skills before growing leadership capabilities, the sooner you start, the better.

Figuring out how to create a robust leadership development plan and acting on it is the best step for all future leaders. Good luck.

If you are looking to develop as a qualified HR leader, we recommend taking our HR Management Certification Course, where you will learn how to demonstrate knowledge and skills, manage employees, handle disciplinary action, and other important aspects of being a leader.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.